Q: I was really impressed with your book, and I also appreciated the reasons you gave as to why you decided to self-publish. I am wondering, though, how are you fulfilling your orders? Are you packaging them up yourself, or using some shipping service? What problems have you encountered in shipping your orders?
A: Actually that was one aspect of the self-publishing process I meant to mention but forgot to in that post you cited. It’s another example of how today’s technology enables a self-publisher to operate as efficiently and quickly as an established distributor.
PayPal has it’s faults, but the tools it brings to the seller are amazing, both in receiving payments and shipping. I already had a merchant account, and was able to quickly and easily create a “Buy Now” feature that included a drop-down menu for options, pre-determined shipping costs that dynamically changed with the buyer’s shipping address and a checkout feature. This allows anyone in any country to purchase the book in any currency with either a Paypal account or an accepted credit card. Once purchased, I get an instant email informing me of the order, which I have routed to a special folder in my inbox. When we do a fulfillment session, which is still once a day at this point, either The Lovely Anna (aka “Shipping and Handling”) or I print out these orders as receipts. Then we log in to PayPal.
Once in our PayPal account, each transaction is listed in chronological order and has a “Print Shipping Label” option listed. Clicking on this allows us to prepare and print out a shipping label as well as pay for postage. One label, with address filled in from the order form, included paid postage, that prints on my desktop printer. We got special self-adhesive labels that are the exact size for the PayPal postage shipping label, with a tear-off other half that contains the shipping receipt and tracking info. If it’s an international shipment, we have an extra customs form step, but it is equally quick and convenient.
Then I sign/draw in the books as directed, we place the receipt in the front of the book, put it in a poly sleeve (bought in bulk from a plastics company), stuff it in the envelope (also bought in bulk from a packaging company) with label affixed, seal the envelope and stack them into a box. The best part? NO WAITING AT THE POST OFFICE. I drop them off in the lobby and then head home. Shipping complete.
I would say this process would be impossible or at least ten times more difficult and time consuming without the automated PayPal selling/shipping tools. I’d had to have paid to get a shopping cart and credit card processing system set up online, had to probably hand address each envelope, or at best type each out in a label-maker program, then stood in line with a box full of books each day and painstakingly did each individually at the post office window. There were days at the beginning of shipping where we did 80-100 books a day catching up on pre-orders. That would have taken hours at the post office, and I would have been lynched by other customers in line behind me.
Yes, it does take time and effort to keep up with the process, but the alternative is to give a fulfillment company/distributor 35% or more of the cover price plus pay for storage. Eventually we may go that route, but for now it’s still kind of fun signing books and dropping them off at the post office, and getting emails from people who are happy with their purchase. I did recently sign with a distributor for libraries, though. Follett Library Resources Inc. and Book Wholesalers Inc. will be carrying my book distributing to K-12 libraries and public libraries respectively.
Thanks to Bill White for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!